Skip to comments.The Spitfire - an appreciation (75th anniversary)
Posted on 03/06/2011 7:12:13 PM PST by sukhoi-30mki
The Spitfire - - an appreciation
By George Kerevan
75 years ago today, as darkness loomed across Europe, an achingly beautiful aircraft soared into the heavens on its maiden flight. The plane would become both an eight-gunned instrument of freedom and a near-spiritual symbol of it. The Spitfire was born.
AT 4:35pm on the afternoon of 5 March, 1936, a pilot called Joseph 'Mutt' Summers walked across the grass of Southampton Airport - currently a hub for Flybe. Summers had spent a tiring day testing a new RAF bomber. Now, he had to squeeze in the first flight of a new fighter called the "Spitfire". A plane that would become a legend and - arguably - hold the pass in 1940 long enough to save us from fascism.
But in 1936, the conventional wisdom in Britain was that "the bomber would always get through". Many considered new fighter planes like the Spitfire a waste of money.
Mutt Summers pressed the starter button and the Spitfire took to the air for the first time. Unlike the wood and canvass biplanes then serving as the RAF's frontline fighters, the Spit was a monoplane of all-metal construction. It had a retractable undercarriage and a fantastic speed of over 350mph. In combat it would be armed with eight machine guns. At last, here was something that would stop any bomber.
The Spitfire was the inspired creation of a true engineering genius, Reginald Joseph Mitchell. He was born in 1895, the son of two Stoke-on-Trent primary school teachers. His poor background precluded university, so he began an
(Excerpt) Read more at living.scotsman.com ...
While the spit was good, the P51 was better. Also, the last model of the spit had a square wing tip not elliptical as the original had. Also spits alone couldn’t have won the Battle of Britain, without the Hurricanes they would have been SOL.
I once saw a list of victories by spitfire and Hurricanes. It turned out the Hawkers had the same victory per flight as the spitfire.
Reminds me of something Chuck Yeager said in his book. “It is the pilot that makes the difference” assuming the planes are anywhere equal.
The only time the pilots have to really show their best skills are when they are facing the enemies best. Then the winner really is the winner.
I had the pleasure of touring a B-24 at an air show years ago. It really was rather roomy. More so than the B-17 which surprised me.
The B-24’s were notorious gas leakers. But they carried a heck of a bomb load. Conversely, by today’s standards, most people would be shocked just how little ordinance was carried by a B-17. But when you have thousands of them in one raid and they are being manufactured faster than the enemy can shoot them down, there is a certain quality that counts.
I have a WWII film of B-24’s on a mission where they are flying so close to the ground that it appears that one of the planes is literally coming within less than 10 feet of the ground - filmed from one of the other planes in the formation. I believe it was the first failed mission to Poesti.
On a side note, I was at a moving sale today of an elderly couple and as I talked to them, I discovered the guy flew as engineer on a Mosquito out of Italy during WWII. They had 50 cal guns (apparently no cannon) and their mission was night fighter. His plane was shot down once and he was credited with saving his pilot’s life when he pulled him from the wreckage.
The BF-109 was a smaller plane with a smaller cockpit. This was an advantage tho it did make the plane a very tight fit.
The All time ace of aces Erich Hartmann one flew from the advancing Russians with his mechanic in the plane too. He commented on just how difficult that was to do.
I understand that one of the biggest advantages of the German planes was that they were fuel injected while the Allied planes were all carbuereted. So inverted flight was a problem for our planes. But my favorite plane of the war is the spitfire, no doubt about it.
Yeah, maybe the later ones were outrunning ME262’s without breaking a sweat. ;)
Douglas Bader flew Spitfires in combat with two artificial legs!
I think President Reagan recited that Poem in his speech following the Challenger disaster.
The other British fighter, the Hurricane, should get some credit for saving Britain as well. Pilots in Hurricanes shot down a good share of those German bombers and fighters.
Actually Hurricanes had 61 percent of the kills during the Battle of Britain, if memory serves.
On August 10th, the Luftwaffe had some 2300 aircraft, with 1029 of them being single and twin-engined fighters.
The RAF possessed 702 operational aircraft, with 289 in reserve. 620 were a mixture of Hurricanes and Spitfires, with the rest rounded out by obsolete or aging craft.
Apparently, the English enjoyed one large advantage; The Chain Home radar network. With a 185 mile range, the RAF could meet the incoming formations, knowing the range and direction and scramble effectively.
All that being said, truly a miracle. Hats off to the Brits.
But even above them I think the Mustang was the sexiest and best aircraft of WW2.
I would love to fly either one of them.
The only aircraft capable of that speed was the ME-262. The Germans were also using rocket planes that only had enough air time to blaze through a formation, then nose down for another pass. Apparently these craft were more hazardous to the German pilots than the Allied bombers.
The Brits had another huge advantage. If their planes were shot down and the pilot bailed out, they could often fly again the same day.
If the British plane crash landed they were able to either repair it or at the least use much of it’s parts.
The Germans also had to fly back over the channel, often damaged. If they fell into the channel the British made prisoners of them.
For the German planes which crashed the British could often salvage a lot of the critical metals in them.
He did, an abbreviated version of it.